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Niyama in our relation to the environment

Would applying yogic principles to the environment help in acting for its conservation?

In our last articles, we talked about the Yama and Niyama principles of yoga, which are social and personal codes to live in harmony with ourselves and others. We looked at how Yama principles can be applied to environmental conservation and would help us gain awareness of nature.

This article will explore how we can apply the Niyama principles to the environment and if that would help direct our energy towards its conservation.

Integration of Niyama in the environment

Saucha, the first Niyama, is about cleanliness or purity. It is generally applied to the practitioner's body and mind, and its goal is to avoid negativity. If we used the cleanliness principle in the environment, we could easily see that it would impact our mental state. There are now many studies describing the adverse effects of a dirty environment on a population's psychological and physical health. A clean surrounding is directly linked with positivity, while a polluted environment tends to bring negativity. So giving more value to the condition of our environment and keeping it clean could help us be in harmony with ourselves, others, and nature in general.

The second Niyama is Santosha or contentment. It teaches us to be satisfied with what we have and move forward. Applied to the environment, it could lead us to appreciate what it is and what it gives us. By practicing contentment over nature, we would learn to be aware of it and develop a sense of care for her.

Austerity or discipline is the third Niyama. It is named Tapah and inspires the practitioner to have passion, self-discipline, and courage. Applied to nature, this principle could make us direct our energy towards the goal of preservation. It would give us the power to act with passion for protecting the environment.

Then comes Swadyaya, the fourth Niyama. It is the principle of self-study and encourages a person to observe her emotions, feelings, and reactions and to cultivate a will for improvement. Associated with the environment, this principle would enable us to reflect on our relationship to nature and the impacts of our actions on it. The majority of people do, to a different extent, some actions that negatively impact nature. Be it small daily activities such as driving a car, eating meat, and buying from non-ethical companies or more extensive actions like building petrol foraging stations; we have an impact on the environment. The Swadyaya principle would teach us to honestly self-reflect on what our individual impact is and to cultivate a will to do better.

Finally, the last Niyama principle is Ishwara Pranidhana. It is about cultivating a trusting relationship with the Universe and dedicating our actions to collectivity. This principle is easy to link with the environment. Since nature provides us with everything we need, we are in a direct relationship with her. It means we must surrender to her and take care of her in return. For long, our societies have lived as if humans were not part of nature but were instead on top of it, controlling it. Ishwara Pranidhana teaches us that we are nature and that our actions must be accordingly.

Yama and Niyama in nature.

Yama and Niyama are yogic principles that aim to harmonize a person with herself, others, and her environment. Whereas Yamas are developed in an outgoing way, teaching us to reflect on relationships with the outside, Niyamas are directed towards the inside and are about harmonizing inner feelings.

As we have seen, these principles can be directed towards nature to improve our awareness and care for her. Applying yogic principles to the environment would help us work towards conservation. We will never say this enough; the more people join the movement and start to apply these principles truly, the better it will be.

At Japam, we aim to do our part by providing educational material about yoga and the environment. We will also do our best for nature's conservation by organizing and participating in different environmental actions. The next one coming our way is the Race for Rainforest action, organized by Cool Earth NGO. Check out if you are interested in joining us in this project by participating in our Nanda Devi East Base Camp trek in September or if you want to contribute with a donation.

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